Interview with Photographer Jay Lawrence Goldman

How long have you been photographing Bar/Bat Mitzvahs?

Since Y2K.

What words would you use to describe your photographic style?

Contemporary, Creative, Artistic Visual Story Telling of Milestone Family Celebrations.

Is it weird that you are interviewing yourself?


What type of products to you suggest a client purchase?

An Album for sure. At least a 10″ x 10″. I prefer the 11″x14″or 12″ x 12″. My Album design is something that I have worked on for 2 decades. I create a book that tells the story of the day that will be handed down for generations.

What about prints?

Photography is not meant to stay on the cloud. It is a great place for a back up, but the best photos need to be printed. I love a family photo wall in a home. I grew up with one. Personally, prefer beautiful small frames. Small clusters of 6 x 9 and 8 x10 photos. You can move them around.

Are you a Proactive Photographer or a Reactive Photographer?

Great question. I am definitely 50-50. There are plenty of set up portraits in beautiful light that I find or create, but there are many, many candid moments that I capture throughout the day.

How do you deal with the organized chaos of these events?

This a prime example of where experience really matters. Documenting a Bar/Bar Mitzvah is not the same as photographing a wedding. Most likely there are many more young children and teens involved. There are multiple meaningful moments and traditions that need to be captured during a service. Camera angle and lens choice are critical in these moments.
There is a full cast of family and friends, clergy, a production team, set decorators, catering, security, and entertainment. Navigating through the event and cast and crew is best done in a calm and confident manner. My situational awareness at these events is extremely refined. I know when to back off or when to lean in. If through my experience I can help in a crisis, I will do what ever I can to make sure the event is a success. This comes from years of dedication to my craft and respect for the importance of this day for each individual family that I work with.

What if everyone late?

Many of my families are late to the photo session. Hopefully only around 30 minutes, but I have had times when the family was over an hour late for photos, leaving us 10 minutes at most before they have to meet with the Rabbi or Cantor. Photography plans for the event need to be adapted on the fly.
I have already visualized my photo set ups no matter when the family arrives, so I am able to skip or swap out some of my ideas to take a few photos and help to move the family comfortably into the actual torah service. I work 3 shots ahead. While I am interacting with the subject or shooting candids of a scene on one shot, I have the next 2 shots planned already planned out. If I will need a certain piece of strobe equipment or a specific lens for the next shot, that as already been set up, and I have dialed in the exposure in my head.

What if my child hates photos?

I can work with anyone. See My Number One Tip to read more.

My Number 1 Tip for the Best Bar/Bat Mitvah Photos

by Jay Lawrence Goldman

Have a Pre-Shoot

There are multiple benefits to scheduling a portrait shoot with your photographer 2-3 months before the event.

All young teens react differently to cameras. Some are “hams” (nothing to do with pork), and some are much more reserved. The Urban Dictionary definition of a “ham” is: Someone who says or does silly things to be the center of attention. Although anyone can be a “ham”, you’ll often see this with children who are around unfamiliar adults.

Side note: Originally the word was hamfatter, meaning “actor of low grade,” and has been linked to an old minstrel show song, “The Ham-fat Man” which dates from about 1863.

Other young teens are not comfortable posing for photos. They may be much more self-conscious and feel awkward. They may have a hard time smiling naturally, or appearing relaxed in the pictures.

As the session progresses, I start to show them images that stand out on the back of my camera. If we are at my studio, I will upload them right away for them see. Nine out of 10 times, they are blown away by the shots, their energy changes and they start to relax and become more natural.

An hour photo shoot with your photographer will allow for rapport to be established with the Bar/Bat Mitzvah. You should take few minutes to discuss your child’s personality and interests. Make sure they have some wardrobe changes that represent who they are at this time in their lives. Props are fine, or it can be much more low key like a casual headshot session for an actor. This valuable time with your photographer will give him or her insight into how much your child loves or hates photos, or somewhere in between. It gives us a reference point as to how to work with the Bar/Bat Mitzvah on the actual day of the event. – I will go into the best way to prepare for the temple shoot in a follow up post.

The photos from a session can be used in multiple ways.

  • A photo on the cover or in the service printed prayer book.
  • Photos will work well in any type of video montage.
  • A hard cover guest book can be printed with multiple photos spread out with blank pages for guests to sign.
  • Photos can be used throughout the party as part of the decor.
  • A signature board is a 16″x 20″ print in a frame with an oversized mat to sign on.